A biological father can properly be held financially responsible for the care of his minor children. By contrast, imagine that you are being assessed hefty child support payments to support a child who belongs to someone else. Further imagine that the child’s mother intentionally identified you as the father while knowing that you were not. This is the nightmare of paternity fraud.
Marriage and the Presumption of Fatherhood
California law presumes that a child born in wedlock is the biological child of both parents. Don’t get tripped up by the word “presume,” however. All it means is that, if your wife gives birth to a child while you are married to her, the law will treat you as the biological father until you prove otherwise.
Mistaken Admissions of Paternity
California issues a form, called a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, that allows you to formally acknowledge that you are the father of the child. It is particularly useful where the child was born out of wedlock. Never sign this form unless you are certain that you are the child’s biological father, because it can become a significant legal obstacle if you find out later that you aren’t.
Court Orders of Paternity
The child’s biological mother may seeks a court order of paternity against you, which paves the way for child support payments to be assessed. Although you have the right to appear at the hearing and defend yourself, if you fail to appear, then a default judgment will be ordered against you.
A DNA test must be court-ordered to serve as valid evidence, and the court can only order a DNA test within two years of the birth of the child. Past the child’s second birthday, the statute of limitations deadline expires and the court lacks the power to order a DNA test. This limitation has the potential to work great injustice, but it gives you all the more reason to seek legal counsel if you believe you have become a victim of paternity fraud.
The Paternity Disestablishment Bill of 2004
In 2004, the California legislature enacted the Paternity Disestablishment Bill, which makes it easier for the victim of paternity fraud to fight back. Among other features, the law provides the following:
A putative father can file a motion to withdraw a mistaken Voluntary Declaration of Paternity at any time before the child’s second birthday.
A putative father can file a motion to set aside a default judgment that led to a court order declaring him the child’s father. This must be within two years of the date that he knew or should have known of the judgment. He can then re-litigate the court order declaring him the father.
A putative father can file a motion to set aside a judgment of paternity that he participated in (in other words, that did not default on) if he was declared the father in the absence of DNA testing. He can then re-litigate the court order declaring him the father.
If you believe that you may have been a victim of paternity fraud, contact CKB Vienna immediately by calling 909-980-1040 or contacting us online to set up an appointment at our office in Rancho Cucamonga.We serve clients from all over town, including Alta Loma and Etiwanda.